2009 Employees of the Year and President’s Award Recipients
Congratulations to Kurt Lantz and Dana Marmion, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.’s 2009 Employees of the Year. The winners were honored and acknowledged at both the Seattle and Spokane facilities’ annual Awards Ceremony this February. These awards are given for leadership in the blindness field to visually impaired employees who display outstanding personal and professional qualities. They will both travel to Cincinnati for the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Annual Training Conference in October. Dana Marmion will compete as an indirect labor representative for the Milton J. Samuelson Award and Kurt Lantz will compete as a direct labor representative for the Peter J. Salmon Award.
“I’ve learned to work hard and do the best you can at what you’re learning,” says Kurt Lantz, Production Worker at Spokane’s Inland Northwest Lighthouse. “I’ve learned to work with my hands more, to be more productive, and be more efficient.”
Kurt has been visually impaired for most of his life. He suffered complications at one year of age from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, and was later diagnosed with glaucoma at age twelve. Two years later, Kurt enrolled at Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB) in Vancouver. There he learned his orientation and mobility skills for independent living. It was at WSSB that Kurt found his ability as a musician in playing the drums. During his senior year at WSSB, he was mainstreamed into a public high school in order to further his orientation training. “After school, finding work was pretty difficult, so I went back to school at Clark Community College in Vancouver. I studied education there.” After his tenure in Vancouver he found work for a year at Oregon Blind Enterprises in Portland.
“My family and I then moved to Spokane, totally unaware that the INL was coming to Spokane,” Kurt recalls. “My mom saw a big newspaper article in the Seattle Times announcing Seattle Lighthouse’s expansion into Spokane. I got right on the phone with Washington State Services for the Blind, knowing that it would probably be one of the best job opportunities I could get.”
Since joining INL in June 2008, Kurt has learned many new skills and jobs while working there. “I haven’t been working here very long, but working with the equipment and machines has really boosted my confidence in using my hands and being able to use tools.”
Outside of his work at INL, Kurt is a professional drummer and plays with several bands including The Ravins (whom have performed at INL events) and The Night Caps, a 5-piece smooth jazz band. He also enjoys working with wood, and spending time with his wife Aimee, his son Zeke and his daughter Leona.
For 13 years, Dana Marmion has worked diligently at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. as a Customer Service Representative, and most recently as a Contact Center Representative. When asked about her experience working at Seattle Lighthouse, Dana says, “I appreciate the camaraderie here! I find people friendly and helpful, and I really appreciate that.”
Dana attended Waggener High School in Louisville, KY, and later went to Pembroke College in Providence, RI. There she studied Classics, which included Greek and Roman culture, archeology, history and languages. After school, Dana went into the Peace Corps while she still had her eyesight. She taught English as a foreign language in Ankara, Turkey for two years. After her tenure there, she and a friend traveled and worked in Thailand for six months. Then Dana ventured alone to Sydney, Australia, where she lived and found work for another six months. After her adventures overseas, she returned to Louisville and taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at the University of Louisville campus. Her eyesight began to decline in her 20’s, and at age 25 she had lost her driver’s license.
“I decided I didn’t want to teach anymore, so I began working on a degree in business and transferred to Washington State University in Pullman and got an MBA in accounting there,” Dana recalls. After receiving her degree, Dana moved to Seattle and found work at a bank. It was while she was working at the bank that she became legally blind from cone-rod dystrophy.
“I applied at services from Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, and they trained me in JAWS software and some braille instruction. They assisted me in getting a job with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation counseling center.” One of the owners of the rehab center had a wife who worked at Seattle Lighthouse, and referred Dana for a job as a Customer Service Center Representative.
The most significant thing Dana has learned at the Lighthouse is to ask for help. “I was partially sighted when I came here, and since then have had to ask for assistance with orientation and mobility (O&M), improving braille skills, and computer training,” she notes. “I’ve become more knowledgeable on how to use the computer. It’s wonderful that the Lighthouse makes an effort to help people so they can do their jobs better. I’m thankful to have a job here.”
In her spare time, Dana enjoys going for walks, sewing, listening to books on tape, and going to Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater to attend their audio-described musical performances. She also enjoys visiting friends in the U.S. and overseas.
President’s Award Recipients
With the opening of the Inland Northwest Lighthouse in Spokane and the addition of dozens of new products to the procurement list, it proved particularly difficult to select a single recipient for the 2009 Presidents Award. In reflection of this, President and CEO Kirk Adams determined it appropriate to recognize the accomplishments of two team members: Kevin Gormley (Senior Production Lead, Inland Northwest Lighthouse) and Steve Harrison (Contract Administration Lead, Seattle Lighthouse).
Kevin Gormley worked for more than 20 years at the Seattle Lighthouse before transferring to the Inland Northwest Lighthouse. Kevin views his role as one of helping his blind and Deaf-Blind co-workers live a quality life and work to their full potential. “I like seeing people with disabilities able to succeed. I see as my role being there for them, and offer any support for them to become successful,” notes Kevin. Kevin’s support of his colleagues contributed in great part to a hugely successful first year at INL.
Steven Harrison currently works as Contract Administration Lead, but he’s held a wide variety of positions over his 33-year history at the Seattle Lighthouse. Prior to joining the Contract Administration team in 1999, Steve worked in the machine shop producing parts for Boeing. Regardless of his position, Steve’s calm demeanor and dedication to doing thorough, quality work is evident and makes him a leader to everyone – sighted, blind, and Deaf-Blind – around him. “I want to put my best foot forward in whatever I do, but to me that’s doing my job. I’ve done and seen a lot at the Seattle Lighthouse, and I’m happy to help whoever and wherever I’m needed.”